A few days ago I came across the newly released photo book “Sam Shepard: New Mexico”. Much like many road pictures taken along route 66 most images where in black and white celebrating the vast landscapes of New Mexico. In general pop culture focuses on the barren landscape with its impoverished looking pueblos. Ansel Adams “Moon rise over Hernandez, New Mexico” comes to mind. “Breaking Bad” was no exception, using Shelley’s famous “Ozymandias” poem as intro to the last episode:
… Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
It occurred to me that my experience here in northern New Mexico is quite different. The colors are strong when the sun is bright, something you can count on most of the time. At higher altitude lush forests cover the mountains and nature looks pristine. So, to complement the pop culture image of New Mexico, I decided to have a little post dedicated to the colors of northern New Mexico.
Just south of Santa Fe, on the last hills of the Sangre de Christo mountain range you get a great view of the Santa Fe plateau. When the sun sets if floods the sky and landscape in almost surreal light.
When driving up the winding road from Pojoaque to Los Alamos the same rock formations as on Ghost Ranch surface with the Sangre de Christo mountains providing a great back drop. Make sure you drop by late afternoon, that is when the light is right.
Not far from it you find Bandelier National monument. The the remains of this ancient settlement of the Puebloans is tucked away in a beautiful valley.
The next two images were taken just at the sun rose over the Galisteo Basin with Sandia Peak in the far distance.
If you want forest head into the Santa Fe National Forest, going up the Pecos river canyon in winter, fall or any other time of the year is a real treat for the reclusive.
Further south, reaching the Gila National Forest from Socorro look back and take in the view over the entire Rio Grande valley. The Rio isn’t so grande but the valley surely is.
Even where New Mexico is run down and beat up it can be colorful, just got to find the colors.
If all else fails the sunsets and skies never disappoint.
I hope this convinced you, New Mexico is more than a monochrome semi desert.